Virgin space tourists could be launched by 2015

A Royal Air Force (RAF) base in Scotland could be launching tourists into space by 2015.

Last Updated: Jun 14, 2010, 09:04 AM IST

London: A Royal Air Force (RAF) base in Scotland could be launching tourists into space by 2015.

Sir Richard Branson’s UK Space Agency has identified Lossiemouth as the ideal location from where a spaceflight would take off, reports dailymail.co.uk.

Virgin Galactic president Will Whitehorn said the company is pressing for changes to legislation in Britain which does not permit commercial flights.

"It’s one of the first things that the UK Space Agency is looking at. Lossiemouth would be ideal - a long runway and clear airspace is what we’d want,’ said Whitehorn.

Virgin Galactic is confident that space tourism will go ahead by 2012 in the US - having already taken more than USD 65 million in bookings from 335 wannabe astronauts.

About 50 percent of those already signed up are American, with the next biggest interest coming from Britain.

The physicist Stephen Hawking, the environmentalist James Lovelock and most recently the comedian Russell Brand have reserved their places too.

Whitehorn said UK Space Agency is pushing the government to amend the 1986 Outer Space Act, which did not account for space tourists.

"Not surprisingly, people didn’t envisage human space flight from the UK in 1986, let alone that it would be a centre for space tourism," he said.

Each aspiring space tourist will have to pay about USD 200,000 for a few minutes of suborbital spaceflight.

However, there are no fitness requirements for passengers, with older people singled out as being able to cope better with high g-forces, according to Whitehorn.

"Our oldest customer, James Lovelock, is 92. We put him in a centrifuge and he was absolutely fine," he said.

Older people’s arteries tend to be narrower and less responsive, meaning they would be less likely to experience sudden rushes of blood to the head, which can cause people to pass out.

Virgin SpaceShipTwo, which made its inaugural test flight over the California desert in March, will be carried by WhiteKnightTwo to an altitude of 50,000 feet and then released by the mothership.

Commercial operations are set to begin in 2012. A crew of two will fly the spaceship which will carry six passengers through the edge of the atmosphere for a brief zero-gravity experience and views of the Earth far below before gliding to a landing.

IANS